Business strategy: what should you be doing right now to make the most of your business over the coming year?

Business strategy

You may think that making a business strategy plan is primarily for start-ups. But even mature businesses can benefit from regularly reviewing strategy, particularly as we start a new year.

Have you thought about what you want to achieve in your business over the coming 12 months and beyond? Here’s our guide to creating a strategic plan for the year ahead and sticking to it!

Why are annual business strategy plans important?

Business planning is not just about starting a business. Making a fresh business strategy plan each year is a great way of reviewing where you are and planning where you are going to go. You don't have to stick to your annual business strategy plan to the letter. In fact, it's better if it’s is a living, breathing document that can be adapted and adjusted in response to external factors and changes in approach.

But what is important is taking the time to sit down at the end of the year and think about the 12 months ahead. Without doing this, it’s so easy to miss opportunities for growth, fail to make improvements and efficiencies and, eventually, start going backwards instead of forwards due to a lack of ambition and goal-setting.

Right now, making a plan for the year ahead may seem a little foolhardy thanks to the continuing uncertainty that we all live with. However, these uncertainties mean a well-thought-out strategy is even more vital.

If you've not given due consideration and thought to where you want your business to go over the coming 12 months, surviving and adapting to challenges will be much more difficult. A strategic plan gives you and your staff a clear direction. It sets you on a path and it helps you stay on it, regardless of what the rest of the world throws at you.

What should you include in your strategic plan?

Don't feel like you have to create a traditional business plan, of the type you might generate when starting up a new business or managing current business. That’s a business plan, not a strategy. A strategic plan is all about the future and planning your strategy for growth.

There are a few basic elements, however, that should be going into your annual strategic business plan. Fundamentally, these centre around SWOT analysis, together with a really detailed review of your market. Here are some of the questions you should be asking yourself as you move into a new year as a small business owner:

  • Who are my competitors and what are they doing better than me?

  • How can I grow my business over the next 12 months?

  • What processes and procedures need to be improved?

  • Has my market changed?

  • Who are my customers?

  • How can we bring in new customers?

  • Can I cut costs?

  • What do we do that’s working really well?

  • What are we doing that’s not working well?

When you look at the list of questions above, it’s clear that many help us to establish strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) and it’s these elements that should form the basis of your business strategy.

If you are operating a mature business, that’s well-established, you’re likely to find that the changes you plan to make, over the year ahead, will be small, incremental adjustments that can actually have a significant impact on your business performance when put into place.

Once you’re ready, create a 12-month action plan, with each initiative for growth assigned to employees. The initiatives should have timelines and results and outcomes should be measured.

Can small business loans help you bring your business strategy to life?

If you try to grow your business without a plan, you are likely to run into serious problems. Taking out small business finance can improve your chances of bringing your growth plans to life. Without the right level of funding, together with a strong strategic plan, you are likely to experience cash flow issues as your try to scale.

A solid business strategy plan with measurable objectives will help you to secure business funding, regardless of what stage your business is at. When considering lending to a business, the team here at mcl finance are also looking to see if a business owner has a clear idea of where their business is going and how they will achieve their goals. And an up-to-date strategic plan can help you to demonstrate this.

How to use your loan in your strategic plan

You can use finance to help fund any part of your business development plan. For example, our customers use loans to finance the following:

  • Increased marketing activity, social, PPC etc.

  • New staff

  • Investing in larger premises

  • Filling gaps in cashflow

  • Buying equipment

  • Increasing manufacturing capabilities

  • Appointing an agency

  • Diversifying

Any and all of these areas can become the focus of the business development part of your business strategy and obtaining the right funding can allow you to bring your dreams to life.

To make sure you apply for the right level of funding, make sure you carry out thorough financial planning and analysis before applying. Establish where you spend money, where savings can be made and where resources are best used. It's vital that you have a clear resource allocation plan for the funding, that you can put into place as soon as the money’s in your business account.

Tracking your success

Finally, one of the more important parts of a business strategy is tracking your progress. As we move through the coming year, business owners should be tracking their progress in terms of their strategic plan, on a regular basis.

You can measure a variety of KPIs to track your performance, and these should be regularly reviewed. These should measure financial performance, such as revenues and costs, but should also measure variables such as efficiency, productivity and customer satisfaction levels. At the end of the year, you’ll have a solid understanding of your strengths and weaknesses to help you create your strategy for the following year.

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